New Century Farmers: Cultivate and Advocate
The New Century Farmer program put on by the National FFA has two goals in mind for the 50 participants: Cultivate and Advocate. “The theme this year is perfect,” states Marty Tatman, education specialist for collegiate programs with the FFA. “About 2% of the population knows where their food comes from. We want these participants to help the other 98% of the population understand agriculture and where their food comes from.”
Tatman says he would like for the participants, from all over the United States, to take an active role in educating Americans. “Whether it’s on a public bus, or on a train, I would love for the students to say, ‘I produce the food you eat. I grow the cotton that makes your clothing or I raise the sheep that makes your wool coat.’ We have to help provide this knowledge and vision for their operations and for being an advocate,” he says.
Getting the word out
The program started with Chad Gregory, vice president of the United Egg Producers, talking about the future of ag, and being an active advocate. “If we aren’t an advocate, the we could lose all that we, our parents, and grandparents have worked for,” he says. “We have to be in charge of the future. If we don’t, then we have serious national security issues.”
Gregory says now more than ever farmers need to get the word out about how food is produced. “We need to talk with our neighbors, communities, and schools and let them know what is going on and how ag actually works,” he says.
Gregory explains that with laws, such as Proposition 2 in California, which states that animals should be able to stand, sit, move around, and extend their limbs without touching anything, farming as we know it could get out of hand. He states that if cages were banned in the egg industry, we would need at least 15 million more hens to produce the same number of eggs we do today. In addition, the conversion would require more than 1 million additional acres of corn and soybeans production to feed the hens.